what a wonderful weekend
You guys have a predilection for getting to the bottom of things: “The earth is on fire, Put a beautiful thing in a container and it ruins it.” If you had to write some new laws of physics based on the everyday science of contemporary experience, what would you propose?
This is such a great…
ya girl is back
yes, I’m in a justice in a mall
President Barack Obama at the White House Correpondents’ Dinner.
OBAMA HAS TOTALLY STOPPED GIVING A FUCK AND IT’S THE GREATEST THING I’VE EVER SEEN
this shit was brutal
If he wasn’t the President he would make a killer stand-up comedian
OH MY GOD
Originally posted here, copied in full below: http://sarahxcerta.wordpress.com/2014/10/05/from-the-mouth-of-a-survivor-an-open-letter-to-elizabeth-ellens-open-letter-to-the-internet-and-all-the-conversation-surrounding/
Let me start this conversation by saying that it’s the last place I want to be. I don’t want to talk about rape. I don’t want to talk about sexual abuse. I don’t want to name the man who raped me because I know that he Googles himself daily and I can assure you his eyes will be one of the first to see this. That thought alone is enough to make my stomach turn. But as the stories of rape and sexual assault concerning Stephen Dierks, Tao Lin, and Steven Trull/Janey Smith have circulated this past week, the thing most clear to me is that many people have very little understanding of 1) what rape and sexual assault actually look like, and 2) the nature and severity of emotional and psychological damage such violence causes. This ignorance aids in perpetuating rape culture. I started to articulate some of these thoughts earlier this week, which you can read in full here.
It is hard for me to say much more about my story. I can tell you that up until May 31st of this year I was engaged to Gregory Sherl, whom several victims came forth about this past winter, prompted by the fundraiser I’d started for him. I can also tell you that nothing in Kat Dixon’s essay detailing her relationship with him shocks me. In fact, it frightens me, how strikingly similar her story is to mine, even though we are strangers, me and Kat, we are bound by the intricacies of this nightmare. I have a hard time reading her essay because it is a step back into a pseudo-home, a life all too familiar and haunting.
I can also tell you that during my relationship with Gregory I was emotionally, psychologically, and sexually abused by him. I can tell you that I was raped on more than one occasion. And that should be enough. But over and over I see victims of rape and sexual abuse have the legitimacy of their claims questioned. People demand details. Context. Evidence. Proof. This is problematic for many reasons that to even think about addressing the issue makes my head spin. But at this point, on behalf of all the victims who continue to be silenced, questioned, and criticized, to say something is to further resist oppression.
From a survivor’s mouth: I cannot yet share many details about the ways in which Gregory abused me and that is not because I am conservative with my words but because I am still heavily dealing with the aftermath of having been in an abusive relationship. It is also because of the perversity of the nature of his acts as well as the emotional and psychological effects publicly sharing those experiences would have on me. Talking about how I was abused makes me feel weak, pathetic, used up and stupid, exactly how such violence is intended to make me feel. I hope one day to be strong enough to share the details because to be strong enough would be to break yet another form of oppression. When I first spoke up I was unable to say his name. I am now able to say his name. It is a slow process, this reclaiming of myself. Victims of abuse are silenced by the public, yes, by their abusers, yes, but also by the very nature of the abuse they have endured. When a victim speaks up it is a revolutionary act, both personally and politically. For many of us, it begins with acknowledging the reality of what has happened to us. It begins with saying to ourselves, “I have been raped.” To admit this to oneself is often the first step in healing. It is also an incredibly painful experience, to have this conversation with oneself, let alone with a friend, let alone with the public. To publicly say “I have been raped” is an enormous feat that many people not only fail to recognize but then also go on to belittle with their questions and skepticism.
What’s even more repulsive is that the victims of Stephen Dierks and Tao Lin told their stories in explicit detail (this article at Quaint Magazine is thorough with links) and they are still being questioned. Not only does this demonstrate a gross insensitivity to the strength and vulnerability of those who have spoken up, but also an ignorance of the nature of rape and sexual abuse. Thankfully, others have done the labor of articulating what we talk about when we talk about rape, including Andrea Kneeland, Seuyeun Juliette Lee, and Katie McDonough in her aptly titled piece “America’s sex abuse surprise: Why our search for ‘monsters’ is blinding us”:
This is the kind of sexual assault that we don’t talk about. The kind that simply doesn’t exist for the Wills and the Flanagans. There are no weapons. No violent struggle. No explicit threats. But it’s rape. Though it seems that there’s no room in our current narratives, at least among the people who are shouting the loudest, to condemn rape that looks like this, because that means answering the question of what is to be done about all of these men — the ones we know, the ones who we don’t think look like “classic” rapists. Or “classic” domestic abusers. And then there are the men who do not do these things but look on and say nothing while this violence unfolds around them. What are we to do about all of these men, who seem to be everywhere?
Elizabeth Ellen is right: Tao Lin is not a monster. Neither is Dierks. Neither is Trull/Smith. And Gregory? I can’t say what Gregory is because I am his victim and on a personal survival level I have to think of him as a monster because it is the only way to stay free of him. But he, along with all the others, is also a man. It’s tempting and for some of us necessary to call these men monsters but ultimately they are men and their attitudes and actions towards women are not isolated beliefs and events. They are misogyny and sexism in visible action. They are common. They are normalized.
Want to see a “classic” rapist? Look around you. Most rapes are committed by a person known to the victim. Nearly 40 percent of rapists are friends or acquaintances with their victims. The sooner we erase the image of the shadowy man hiding in the bushes or stalking women in darkened parking lots from our collective consciousness, the better. Not because stranger rape doesn’t happen, but because this singular vision of sexual violence erases a majority of the crimes being committed. (McDonough)
Elizabeth Ellen thinks it is important to share her personal experiences with Tao Lin. This does nothing except prove that he is not abusing someone at all hours of the day. It proves that he can appear perfectly harmless. He can be a good friend. Of course he can. Do you think when Gregory proposed to me he followed it up with “I am going to rape you now”? That Elizabeth Ellen offers her own experience with Tao Lin as some sort of rebuttal or parallel to E.R.’s experience is demeaning, insulting, and arrogant. And I don’t even want to delve into the “he’s not all bad” argument because it’s part of what kept me in the cycle of abuse and also what feeds my self-doubt. Of course he’s not “all bad.” Do you know how hard Gregory could make me laugh? It doesn’t mean he didn’t rape, gaslight, or sexually and emotionally abuse me. For someone to offer the “he’s not all bad” argument is to further minimize and silence the victim.
Which brings me to my next point: what about his side of the story? What if he didn’t “mean” to do it? From a survivor’s perspective this question also comes with heavy emotional weight. After being pressed for details victims are then often forced to consider their abusers’ intentions, which is incredibly dangerous: being asked to sympathize with your abuser further minimizes the severity of your experience, which has most likely already been minimized not only through your own psychological repression as a way of coping but also by the prevalence of rape myths.
To the grace and bravery of Stephen Dierks’ most recent (now-ex) girlfriend, we get to see some of Stephen’s initial response to the allegations brought against him. It is clear that he is scared, doesn’t deny what happened, yet still says “idk if it is legally what they say it is,” meaning: he doesn’t know if he “legally” raped or, just, I don’t know, casually? I’m actually not sure what Stephen means. He is most likely in denial. And he is definitely unaware of what rape is, which is, perhaps, one of the biggest problems in responding to a victim’s story with “What about him?” Many men accused of rape aren’t going to say that’s what happened because they don’t know what rape is and that is because they are so deeply entitled to women’s bodies. They have very little concept of rape or sexual abuse because such violence and entitlement has been normalized. They are so entitled that they don’t even recognize this entitlement. They don’t want to.
But I didn’t mean to hurt her, I didn’t mean to rape her. To this sentiment we can only respond: Well, you didn’t mean not to. You didn’t mean to treat her like a human being. You didn’t mean to respect her. You didn’t mean to think of her at all. All you meant to do was think of your own needs and desires and doing whatever it takes to fulfill them i.e. you raped her. And yeah, that’s a hard thing to accept. It’s also a hard thing to accept that you have been raped. There is no undoing this trauma. There is no do-over.
From a survivor’s mouth: Elizabeth Ellen’s Open Letter to the Internet is a kick to the throat. It is careless, uninformed, and frightening. Any valid points she may have had are lost in the fact that her words reflect and perpetuate rape culture, despite whether or not this was her intent, it clearly wasn’t her intent not to.
To deny that rape subculture in the literary world is real, and an issue to be dealt with, is to deny that rape culture itself is real, and to fundamentally misunderstand how rape-culture-in-general works by filtering down through more localized, more specific systems. This denial and misunderstanding, even when well-intentioned, amounts to one more act of patriarchal silencing and erasure.
In her letter Elizabeth Ellen writes that she is certain she doesn’t have the right answer and she is well aware that she is offering a viewpoint for which she will no doubt receive backlash. Maybe this is one of the positive things people saw in her piece – her willingness to voice her opinion despite knowing it wouldn’t be popular among everyone. If the issue at hand were something other than what it is I might venture to say this was brave of her. But in this case it was dangerous and irresponsible and I can only hope that the time I’ve spent here, in this conversation I do not want to have, will encourage her and everyone else in support of the letter to deeply examine the implications of their words and beliefs. Sophia Katz has also made an important statement addressing the problematic nature of the open letter. Kate Zambreno initially shared the letter and then apologized for doing so and her call for more listening and self-examination is refreshing and vital.
In closing I also want to address the fact that Elizabeth Ellen previously stated in a Hobart interview that she felt like defending Gregory Sherl because from what she knew the allegations weren’t true. I was only aware of the interview because Gregory himself showed it to me, the day it was published, while we were still together, as a way of saying, “See, I am a victim of mob mentality. I am a shitty boyfriend but I am not an abuser. I am not a rapist. I am innocent.” Not that it’s Elizabeth Ellen’s fault that he continued to play the victim card with me – ultimately he is the one we need to continue to hold responsible and accountable for what he has done – but people who jump to dismiss allegations like this are not only slapping victims in the face but also helping those in power, upholding the system that normalizes rape and sexual violence, and I don’t know if I can give you a more concrete example of this than what I’ve just shared.
It doesn’t matter if you call yourself a feminist or if you are “for women.” Just like it doesn’t matter if Stephen says he didn’t mean to rape anyone. It is lazy labeling without real examination of the systems of oppression in place. In the end the effects of your actions remain the same and if you refuse to examine this for yourself you will continue to be very much a part of the problem.
i have wanted to say so many things about this in the past week or two. sophia katz coming forward has resulted in so many articulate, insightful views on so many crucial topics — experiencing extreme awe at the sheer prolificacy of it all. every time i think to say anything else i get tongue tied.
somehow all of this makes me feel a lot less alone
Anaïs Nin, from the introduction to Henry Millers’ Tropic of Cancer (via justmorelli)